Who's the quarterback? Top position battles for Ohio State football in training camp

Ohio State enters the 2023 football season with much reason for hope as well as several areas of concern. Any team would be blessed to have players such as wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Emeka Egbuka, a deep running back room that includes TreVeyon Henderson, defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and linebacker Tommy Eichenberg. The list of talented Buckeyes runs much deeper than that. But there are plenty of question marks about OSU, as well, and those will begin to be sorted out in training camp. Here are the biggest position battles the Buckeyes have as the season approaches: Quarterback Neither Kyle McCord nor Devin Brown emerged as a clear front-runner in spring practice, and Brown missed the final chunk of it, including the spring game, with a broken pinky on his throwing hand. Brown is throwing again, and this battle will be the headliner until a winner is declared. McCord appears to be the front-runner. A junior, he has been in the program a year longer than Brown. He started the Akron game as a freshman when C.J. Stroud was injured and was Stroud’s backup last year. Buckeyes coach Ryan Day was careful not to tip his hand two years ago when Stroud, McCord and Jack Miller competed for the job. He has followed the same approach this year. Day said he has seen encouraging signs from both quarterbacks, as well as aspects that need to improve. McCord is perceived to be the better pure passer and Brown the better runner and perhaps improvisor, but it’s not as if McCord lacks athleticism. Offensive line Though most of the attention will probably go to the quarterbacks, how the offensive line sorts itself out may be at least as important to the Buckeyes’ success. Only veteran guards Donovan Jackson and Matt Jones are assured starting spots, and even though either (probably Jones) could move to a different position if a guard such as Enokk Vimahi proves to be one of the best five linemen. The center and tackle positions remain unresolved. Carson Hinzman appeared to have the edge on transfer Vic Cutler by the end of spring. But Jakob James, who didn’t participate in March and April because of an injury, is very much in the mix. Josh Fryar has the inside track at left tackle but hasn’t sewn up that spot. Right tackle is wide open. Tegra Tshabola and Zen Michalski battled in the spring, with neither taking control. Transfer Josh Simmons, who started for San Diego State last year, has a genuine opportunity to win the job despite not arriving until after spring practice. Cornerback This was a weakness last year, but the Buckeyes expect it to be a strength in 2023. Denzel Burke’s sophomore season was beset by injuries and inconsistency, but he returned in the spring to the form he showed as an impressive freshman. He’s set at one spot. More: Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, Chris Ward again on College Football Hall of Fame ballot The other should be an interesting battle between Jordan Hancock and transfer Davison Igbinosun. Hancock was expected to compete for a job but missed much of the season with a hamstring injury. Now healthy, he had a solid spring. The rangy Igbinosun had a good freshman season at Ole Miss before deciding to come to Ohio State. Chances are, both will see significant playing time. Jyaire Brown also will be in the mix, as will Notre Dame transfer Lorenzo Styles Jr., a converted wide receiver. Safety The Buckeyes have plenty of depth here, which means there will be plenty of competition. Lathan Ransom decided to return for another season instead of entering the NFL draft. His terrific 2022 season was marred by breakdowns at pivotal moments against Michigan and Georgia, which has only fueled his hunger for this year. More: From nonprofits to for-profits: Inside the evolution of Ohio State’s NIL collective market Josh Proctor was a surprise returnee after losing his job early to Ransom last year. He has an enviable mix of range and hitting ability. If he can put it all together, Proctor can be a difference-maker. Ja’Had Carter is an experienced transfer from Syracuse who impressed until an injury cut short his spring. Coaches extolled the development of Cam Martinez this spring, and he will be in the mix at the safety/nickel cornerback spot. Perhaps the most intriguing defensive back is sophomore Sonny Styles. The Pickerington native would be a freshman this year if he hadn’t enrolled early last year. He impressed coaches and teammates with his maturity and developed quickly enough that he was used in the Georgia game. With a rare blend of size and speed, he has a chance to be special. It’s more of question of when and how than if with Styles. Jack Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles likes to use this hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker as a wild card in his defense. Last year, Jack Sawyer saw action here, with mixed results. Now Sawyer is back at his more natural defensive end position. Knowles has touted Mitchell Melton and C.J. Hicks as leading candidates for the Jack. Melton missed the spring recovering from his knee injury but could be a natural for this spot. Hicks is a linebacker who was the crown jewel of OSU’s 2022 recruiting class. With Eichenberg and Steele Chambers set at linebacker and the experienced Cody Simon also there, this would be a way to get Hicks on the field. April 15, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Kicker Noah Ruggles has departed, as has Jake Seibert via the transfer portal. That leaves Jayden Fielding and Parker Lewis as the top candidates. Fielding handled kickoffs for the Buckeyes last year but didn’t attempt a field goal. Lewis was Southern California’s in 2020 and ’21, making 26 of 35 field goals. This battle hasn’t attracted much attention, but the end of last season, when Ruggles missed a 50-yarder that would have beaten Georgia, demonstrates its importance.

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